Baxter not bothered by fruitless Bath run
Exeter Chiefs stalwart Richard Baxter believes the players should not dwell on the fact they have never beaten Bath in the Premiership going into today's Sandy Park clash (3pm).
The Chiefs have played their Westcountry rivals six times since the Devon club were promoted into the top flight in 2010, and have lost them all.
Five of them have been in the league and one in the LV= Cup. All but the cup game – when Exeter put out a weakened side – have been very close encounters.
In fact, the last two matches involving the arch rivals at Sandy Park have both finished 12-9 to Bath, with penalties providing all of the points.
"I think it is probably important we don't focus too much on our record against Bath and don't let that distract us," said Exeter No.8 Baxter.
"It is about us performing well, and being in the Premiership, and playing in these sorts of games in front of sell-out crowds. They are important matches, and lots of people come to watch them, and that's what makes them so exciting, and we want to be playing in those sorts of games, hopefully performing well, and playing a big part."
Exeter never seem to quite hit their best form for long enough periods in fixtures with Bath, and that was again the case when the two sides met at the Recreation Ground at the end of October, with Bath winning 23-15.
"That is true to a degree," said Baxter. "Some of that is down to Bath, they are a very good side and they do their homework on us. I thought the match-up at their place earlier in the season was a fantastic game of rugby. That could have gone either way, and there was a lot of good rugby played by both sides.
"I am expecting [today] to be another tight game, and full-blooded, but we will just try and prepare well and take what comes out of it."
It is the second of three matches for the Chiefs against sides in and around them in the top half of the table – they take on Northampton Saints at Sandy Park a week today – with the first in the sequence ending in an agonising 18-16 defeat to Gloucester at Kingsholm last Saturday.
"We were really disappointed we didn't get the win, but to be as competitive as we were, it wasn't the end of the world for us," said Baxter.
"When you play the teams around you, there is always a bit more on it because you can jump above them if you win. I think that is why it was so important we got a bonus point at Gloucester if we didn't win the game.
"There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season, and the points you pick up here and there can mean a lot come the end of the campaign."
Exeter led 16-12 midway through the second half at Kingsholm, but they conceded two penalties in the final 15 minutes, both slotted by England fly-half Freddie Burns, on an afternoon where they seemed to fall victim to some poor refereeing decisions.
"It was a really competitive game, and I would think pretty good to watch. The atmosphere was great, and both sets of fans were excellent," said former skipper Baxter.
"When games are so tight, and the odd decision doesn't go your way, it does become frustrating. Sometimes, when you come away from home, you really do need to rip the result away from teams. There are different factors in playing away from home. We weren't quite good enough, but we weren't far away.
"It is always more disappointing when you come so close to winning, but we are not too disappointed with our performance, it is something for us to build on, and full credit to Gloucester."
One of Exeter's highlights in the contest was the only try of the game by hooker Simon Alcott, which followed an amazing 22 phases of play in dreadful conditions.
"The effort from the guys was tremendous. We kept the ball really well in bad conditions, and managed to find Simon in a bit of space, and he did really well to score the try," said Baxter.